26 TOPICS & TIPS TO HELP PARENTS FIND THE BEST SUMMER CAMP
The school year is almost done, and many students are focusing on summer. Weeks of lazy days, no homework and sleeping in return. Parents, on the other hand, don’t want to see their sons and daughters lose momentum from learning and waste away weeks from June through August. How can these two worlds come together? They meet through the wonder of summer camp.
Campers can enjoy the camaraderie and fun of making new friends and hanging out with old friends. Parents can relax knowing that their child is spending part of his or her summer being challenged, learning and being entertained.
As you prepare to make your summer camp decisions, consider these points, listed in A to Z fashion. Some are more challenging issues; others are just the details. No matter which, they all merit your consideration to insure a great summer experience for your camper.
Tips for Choosing a Summer Camp, From A–Z
Ask About Accreditation. Organizations like the American Camping Association (ACA) offer accreditation to camps as a way for parents to know that they selected a camp that has met appropriate standards and counselor/camper ratios.
Begin at the Beginning. Talk to your son about what interests him. Find out what type of camp he wants to go to and how long a day he’s able to put in. If he’s always wanted to learn Tae Kwon Do, summer camp may be the perfect time to let him sample this sport before making a longer commitment.
Choices. Specialty day camps give children an in-depth introduction to something new that interests them. Many camps specialize in everything from drama to sea life to soccer. Children could be filling their summer days doing things like playing the violin or learning to place a corner kick. Your child might be a natural on the uneven bars or the balance beam. On CharlottesvilleFamily’s Family Fun page, you’ll find lots of information about and options for local camps.
How to Find a Summer Camp
Don’t Despair. Even though there are hundreds of options for day camps (not to mention sleep-away camps) on CharlottesvilleFamily‘s Online Camp Fair, with just a few minutes of research, you can find great choices for your campers.
Education. Send your child to a summer camp geared toward academics. Summer could be a great time to help your child catch up or leap ahead before the next school year begins.
“Fun should rule during June, July and August.”
Focus on Fun. “As parents, we want every experience for our children to be worthwhile and educational. While camp can certainly be a wonderful time to improve grades, remember that it’s summertime,” says Y camp counselor Shawn. “Fun should rule during June, July and August.”
Get Acquainted. Many camps have brochures that are free for the asking. These may help you narrow the field to maybe one or two choices.
High-Tech Technology. It changes every day. Summer camp can be a good opportunity to get your child up to speed. Some camps offer hands-on experiences in technology to enhance what’s being learned during the school year. “Kids can be filming and editing digital movies, programming robots and creating their own 2D and 3D video games,” says Karen, a former camp vice president of marketing.
Information, Please. There’s lots of online information. Most camps have their own websites geared to answer your questions. For a more general start, visit the American Camping Association’s website at www.acacamps.org or the National Camping Association, www.summercamp.org.
Jump, Run, Skip. Use summer camp as a chance to move your child away from the video games and off the couch. See if your son can develop a jump shot at basketball camp or have your daughter put on her ballet shoes and learn to pirouette.
Keep it Simple. It’s not necessary to have every minute of the summer break scheduled with activities. Allow your child time to choose a few activities he especially enjoys and leave some time for just hanging out.
Look Ahead. Save the information and research you did this year. You’ll be looking for new, exciting opportunities for next summer before you know it.
Museums. When it’s summertime, a visit to the museum takes on a different character than a school field trip. Museum camps can turn kids on to archeology, astronomy and the prehistoric world in ways that no sixth grade teacher can. Don’t miss this chance to have your child dig for dinosaur bones or experiment with chemistry–all under the guise of summer fun!
What Are the Benefits of Summer Camp for Kids?
New Friends. “We find that parents want to give their children opportunities to build friendships and make connections with others. Summer camp is the perfect place to do that,” says Rebekah, a director of program development.
Outdoor Offerings. Horseback riding, water polo and bird watching may be unique ways for your child to experience the great outdoors. Take advantage of the inviting summer weather and choose a more traditional day camp whose program will reflect an outdoor educational experience.
Play to Your Strengths. Camps give children an opportunity to hone an existing skill or talent. “I really like the way my son and daughter were able to improve their soccer skills,” says Diane, mother of 8-year-old Joshua and 10-year-old Brittany. “We sent them to a sports camps in past summers. It really broke up the long summer and gave them a place to run off that extra energy.”
Questions to Ask. Here are a few questions to get you started: How far away am I willing to drive to take my daughter to camp? How much of a budget can I dedicate to camp experiences this summer? Do I want to send her to a camp that has lots of kids? Do I want her day to be completely structured or would she prefer a mix of structure and free time?
Role Models. Parents continue to look for ways to enrich the lives of their children. Camp offers that opportunity in a safe, fun atmosphere. It’s also a way to be exposed to positive role modes, both male and female, and to reinforce good values like caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.”
Schedules. The daily schedules of each weeklong day camp vary. Some run from early morning until late afternoon (with extended day care, if desired). Others offer a combination of half-day or full-day sessions. You can send your child for the entire summer or select a few weeks here and there.
What Are the Best Types of Summer Camps for Kids?
Think Themes. Day camp keeps up with the trends and newest interests of their campers, too. Some novel camping themes you’re likely to see include scrapbooking, forensic science and movie themes like “Harry Potter.”
Camp takes unusual learning opportunities and turns them into unique summer memories.
Unique Memories. Your camper has never repelled down the side of a rock wall. He talks about wanting to see what it’s like to balance on a wakeboard. Maybe your daughter wants to try her hand at magic. Camp takes unusual learning opportunities and turns them into unique summer memories.
Variety. Here’s a chance to sample lots of different activities, sports and disciplines. If your child isn’t hooked on any one topic, a camp that has a different theme each week may be just what you’re looking for.
Water, Water Everywhere. Paddle-boarding, kayaking and swimming are just a few of the water-related camp experiences available for kids. Summer can be the perfect time to introduce your child to the wonders of the ocean and make sure they are water-safe as well.
eXamine and eXplore. Summer camp is a chance for children to exercise their inquisitive side. Being in an environment unlike home and school gives kids a chance to examine and explore new surroundings.
Your Choice or Your Camper’s. “Too often we get kids in camps that their mom or dad wanted them to attend,” says camp counselor Shawn. “I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing camp activities that your child is interested in,” he adds. “If you daughter doesn’t want to play soccer, you’re better off enrolling her in a different camping experience. Everyone will be much happier by the time the end of the summer rolls around.”
Zoo and Beyond. Summer’s a great time for your child to learn more about the animal kingdom. Their quest for learning about creatures great and small, on the land or in the sea, is encompassed in a perfect setting.
A Parent’s Guide to Choosing a Summer Camp
Making a decision about which summer camp to have your child attend may not be as easy as ABC, but we hope that these Tips to Help You Choose a Summer Camp will help. As long as you keep your goals in mind, you’re certain to make the best selection for your camper. So, sit back and relax. Once again June will quickly turn into September. You can take some comfort in the fact that you’re providing your child with a challenging summer. And you won’t be listening to any complaints about being bored. But you’re still likely to hear: “Hey mom, where’s my backpack?!”
For expert advice from local camps, info on proactive camp policies and news on the current compliance with covid that is in place to help your child enjoy a safe summer camp experience, see Safe Summer Camps.
is an award-winning freelance writer and the mother of a former camp counselor.
CharlottesvilleFamily.com, a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.